Types of Massage

Massage therapy is an ancient healing art dating back thousands of years. So it may come as no surprise that there are various types of massage called as modalities. This is also why massage therapy is so effective at helping people live healthier in mind, body and spirit. For any type of affliction you have, there is probably a perfect type of massage therapy designed specifically to relieve it.

While these are broad modalities of massage types, you can find starting points to the perfect class or massage therapist through these four modalities.

While these are broad types of massage, you can find starting points to the perfect massage therapy school or massage therapist through these five categories major types of massage. Select a category below to view the types of massage in that area, or view a complete list of massage modalities.

Western Massage Therapy

Western massage therapy modalities mostly focus on medical therapy, including trigger point and neuromuscular massage therapy, which is an approach to detailed massage types for muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue.

Western massage therapy includes some of the better known and more popular massage techniques available. As a category, Western massage relies upon various strokes used to manipulate soft tissue. Many massage types are basic to the Western massage family but four – Swedish, deep tissue, sports and neuromuscular therapy – are the most common.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage forms the initial set of practice techniques massage therapists learn – it’s also a great head-to-toe experience for first time massage recipients. During a basic Swedish massage, oil or lotion is typically used to facilitate long, smooth strokes called effleurage. Other types of strokes, including kneading, friction, stretching and tapping are also used to facilitate relaxation and circulation.

The most common kind of massage offered in Western massage is the swedish massage. This is the kind of massage that most people encounter first because of the wildly popularity of the great relaxation you attain from swedish massage.

What is a swedish massage? It is accomplished by using different oils that will allow the masseuse to work your muscles using long, smooth, gliding motions known as effleurage. These are movements which run along the long muscles in your body to relax kinks and tension which can build up from your daily stresses. The positions that you sit in at work and work you do around the house can also cause a build-up of the kind of tension relieved by Swedish massage.

Swedish Massage Techniques. There are more methods used in Swedish massage besides effleurage, such as working out your tension through tapping, stretching, friction and kneading. The method used always includes firm pressure without being so firm that it will hurt. The goal is to allow the muscles to relax and release tension. While getting a Swedish massage you may undress to your comfort level (some stay fully clothed, some derobe to the undergarments and some receive these massages nude). For those who are new to this kind of massage you are welcome to wear your underwear. The masseuse will use what is known as draping to reveal only the part of the body that they are working on. This allows you to enjoy some modesty while you are getting the Swedish massage that will allow you to feel calm and relaxed.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage uses movements similar to Swedish massage but is aimed at the deeper structures of muscles and fascia. With this Western massage technique, the therapist works on underlying tissues by applying pressure and focused strokes to release chronic tension and knots. This type of massage can be useful in easing pain caused by tight muscles.

The majority of massage will delve only into the muscles which are right below the surface of the skin. While this will allow you the relief you need from common daily stress, it will not help you if you have injuries or other deep muscle problems. When you are experiencing these problems, it is time to turn to what is known as deep tissue massage. This is a form of massage which will allow you to get at the muscles which are beneath the top muscles. It takes a skilled masseuse to provide you the relief you need through this method without causing you permanent damage to your muscles. It is important to note that when you receive this kind of massage for the first time or throughout time that you will likely experience a different kind of tenderness, aching or even pain for a few days. This is because of the pressure which is necessary in deep tissue massage to manipulate the deeper muscles in the body.

When getting this kind of bodywork, you will likely experience different levels of deep tissue massage. This is because while some people will need to get at an injury, others would like to simply get relief from aches and pains they are experiencing in their deep muscles. While athletes might receive what is considered to be light deep tissue massage, those with muscular injuries will receive a much harder rub down. It is extremely important that you commit to good communication with the therapist. As long as you tell them what you are feeling during your deep tissue massage, you can circumvent anything that will result in lasting pain.

Sports Massage

Sports massage techniques are named for their use with athletes to assist in their performance and recovery. The focus of the sports massage techniques, sometimes used in tandem with other treatments such as electrical muscle stimulation, cold laser and hydrotherapy, aims at rehabilitation of injury, relieving chronic pain or easing restricted range of motion.

Athletes and even those who play sports casually are prone to muscle aches which the average, less athletic person may never feel. These aches cannot be satisfied with a normal massage designed to relieve stress. They need a sports massage which is designed to correct muscle aches which can happen when you have torn muscles or ligaments. You may even need this kind of bodywork just when you have a tear in the muscle which needs some relief as it repairs itself. The only way to get the relief you are looking for is through a deep tissue massage which is known as a sports massage. This is normally accomplished by using the knuckles, palms and elbows to work through the initial layers of muscles under the skin to the muscles which reside closest to the bone.

Those who play sports are used to getting deep rubs with the right kinds of oils and lotions. This is because deep tissue massages will help to prevent injury by making sure the muscle is in the right place and is performing as it should. Regulative sports massage is not as intense as regular sports massage. This is because there is nothing that is sore or torn. This kind of massage is only used to make sure your muscle will not tear while you are practicing or competing in your field. This kind of massage is not recommended for those who simply want a good, relaxing massage. This is because the pressure necessary to get to the deep muscles will cause you pain instead of relief.

Neuromuscular therapy

Neuromuscular therapy, also known as trigger point massage, “triggers” points that cause a painful response. A trigger point is located in a taut band of muscle fibers and is the most tender point in the band. Massage therapists locate and deactivate trigger points using finger pressure. Neuromuscular therapy can also be used along with other types of massage techniques to promote relaxation and pain relief.

One of the ways you can get relief in your skeletal muscles is through the use of neuromuscular therapy. This is one of the adjuncts that allows you to get relief from a list of different ailments. It was first used in between the 30s and the 40s. It was created as a European technique to provide relief in the deep tissues which can be affected by physical or emotional stresses. It is performed by applying pressure in strokes that run perpendicular to the skin’s surface. The point of the motion is to stimulate the muscle and create a change in the way the muscle feels and how it performs. Neuromuscular therapy is a method that identifies and utilizes the myofascial trigger points in order to provide you with relief.

While the reasons why you would need to have neuromuscular therapy might differ, the results from it should be the same. You should be able to get instant results rather than having to go through ten steps like some other massage and wellness programs. You will also have to go see a neuromuscular therapist who is knowledgeable in how to effectively stimulate your muscles so that you will get the results that you are looking for. This has been planted firmly in the holistic category of treatment for muscular problems and as such does not get as much respect as it deserves. Those who have undergone this kind of therapy will be able to attest to how well it works. You should get better range of motion and less pain with neuromuscular therapy.

Eastern Massage

Eastern massage therapy modalities rely upon the concept of pressure points which serve as key points in energy channels that flow through the body. These Eastern types of massage focus on manipulating the pressure points so blocked energy points can be cleared, thus improving the client’s physical and mental health, while aiding with muscle damage and pain relief.

As one of the oldest and most basic medical treatments in the world, massage therapy has a rich history – especially in many Eastern cultures. Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea are all considered part of the Eastern region, and they share some common massage philosophies, techniques and modalities.

The central tenet to Eastern massage therapy is the importance of balance within the body. These massage practitioners treat the body as a system with coexisting parts and energies. That’s why Eastern massage techniques are designed to increase the balance in these energies and to stimulate different energy centers within the body.

To help restore the body’s systems to balance, Eastern massage practitioners focus their application of pressure on the areas of the body that correspond to different ailments. Many of these practitioners use body maps made up of lines and dots to guide their treatments. For example, applying pressure to the shin can help restore balance to the digestive system.

Today, we can thank Eastern cultures for introducing Eastern massage therapy modalities such as:

  • Shiatsu
  • Acupressure
  • Tuina (Chinese medical massage)
  • Thai massage
  • Jin Shin Do

Shiatsu Massage

History of shiatsu. While the first noted use of the term shiatsu is in 1915, it is believed this method of bodywork was used more than 2,000 years earlier in Japan. Shiatsu a form of massage which uses only the hand to relieve pressure and pain throughout the body. It is believed that different sections of the hand have an effect on the way certain parts of the body function.

By relieving stress in the hand, it is possible to relieve the stress felt in the rest of the body. In Japanese shiatsu massage, the principles of the pressure points in the hand are based on the same logic of acupuncture. To this day, shiatsu is used to relieve stress and improve overall health for those in the Japanese government as well as the rest of the society.

Why get a shiatsu massage? While shiatsu has enjoyed immense popularity over the centuries in Japan, it is still slow to gain acceptance in the west. It is important to note that when you get a shiatsu massage that you will not just receive a hand massage. First the shiatsu practitioner will give you a full examination in which they look at your skin tone, determine any odor problems, and check for gland or internal organ problems. They will then go through the systematic process of alleviating any issues that they have made note of in their assessment. When you first go through a shiatsu massage, it is common to feel lightheaded as the practitioner will most likely release toxins which have been pent up due to poor circulation in parts of your body.


The body is made up of different pressure points which can be utilized in order to produce feelings, flows of circulation or other desired results. Acupressure is when pressure is applied to different pressure points along the body in order to get a desired result. This can be in the feet, hands, legs or anywhere else along the circulatory system. This is usually accomplished by using fingers in the pressure points to massage out the muscles while applying constant pressure with the palm. This is just one of the methods that are used, but it is very popular because it produces effects which can be felt almost immediately.

Another way in which this kind of bodywork can be accomplished is through the use of hot stones which are placed on the different parts of the body including along the spinal column in order to inspire better circulation. The exact placement and weight of the stones is very important in order to get the desired effect of the pressure. This is because the different areas of the body have different pressure points at which they are at their optimal. Using a method like this is preferred by many because it allows them to be completely relaxed while their body is being healed. This is one of the pictures that you will most often see when you see a picture for a spa because they would like for you to believe that you will be totally relaxed when you go to visit them.


Your body has a natural balance which is necessary for you to feel right. This balance can be thrown off by a number of different things including work and the stresses which are associated with the work environment. The Tuina form of massage is a way in you will be able to restore your natural balance through Eastern massage. The method by which the balance is restored is through passive and active joint restoration. This will help you to return yourself to the state at which you are able to perform at your best. Passive joint restoration is when the practitioner will bend and twist your joint for you. Active joint restoration is when you will have to commit to the twisting and stretching on your own.

The benefit to being able to do anything in an active manner is that you will be able to commit the same movements even when you are outside of the treatment facility. This way you will be able to restore functionality and balance through Tuina even when you are all alone. It is important to note that this method also includes an in-depth therapeutic massage. This will allow your muscles to be in the right condition for the exercises and vice versa. The total goal will be to restore your physical and structural balance no matter what. Because this method has roots in China, it has had centuries to be perfected before it came to America. This is a good indication that the Tuina Eastern massage therapy works.

Thai Massage

There are more and more people seeking massages that are focused on stretching their muscles and relaxing which allows them to keep on their clothes. This can be because of modesty or simply that it is more comfortable and some religions prohibit it. Either way, you will be able to find a great method of massage in Thai massage.

What is thai massage? It is recommended you wear loose fitting clothes because the nature of the exercise is to go through a series of stretches which will help to align your body so that you will feel at one with your body and so that your muscles will not ache from pent up toxins any longer. This is accomplished with the strong hands of a skilled Eastern massage practitioner. Thai massage is very beneficial to people with aches and back pains.

Benefits of thai massage. The stretches you will be using in Thai massage are designed to help you return to the balance that your body naturally has. Thai massage operates on the principle that your body has invisible lines of force that run throughout your body. If your body is not in line with these different lines of force than you will not be able to have the right amount of energy flowing through your body. This will cause you to feel drained as well as have aching muscles. When you go through the stretches that are a part of this Eastern massage method, you will restore this flow of energy. You will stretch your hands, feet and legs to get the desired results. Thai massage is great to allow you feel energized and ready to face the world.

Jin Shin Do

The body consists of different pressure points which will allow you to get the kinds of results that you want without having to exert a lot of pressure. Jin shin do is one of the kinds of massage which uses pressure points to get a desired result. This is because the practitioner will use different points on the body to receive gentle finger pressure along with a circular motion. The point of the pressure and the motion is to help improve circulation to the parts of the body which need it the most. This is accomplished through the balancing of energy within the body. This is an Eastern massage technique which has taken hold in the west as more people discover the healing power of gentle pressure.

Pressure points have been used in such things as acupuncture and acupressure for centuries now with great results. While Jon shin do is not as popular as other forms of massage, it is quickly gaining popularity in those that do not enjoy the discomfort that they often feel after they have gone through different kinds of deep tissue massage. The great thing about manipulating the circulation of the blood is that you will be able to reduce muscle and joint pain as well as increase the health of the internal organs just through the pressure points that are common throughout the body. A good Jin shin do practitioner will be able to make you feel better in just one session unlike other forms of massage which require ten sessions.

Bodyworks Massage

Bodyworks is a term that describes therapeutic healing or development through massage. Some of the best known forms are: Yoga and pranayama (breath work and therapy) Rolfing, Trager, kinesiology, Bioenergetics, and Chiropractic and Osteopathy.

Massage therapy incorporates a number of different techniques and practices, including bodyworks massage. Bodyworks massage is a therapeutic and relaxing practice that involves the manipulation, massage or regimented movement of body parts.

Bodyworks techniques can concentrate on deep tissue techniques and energy field components. Another characteristic of bodyworks can include particular stroke patterns.

Students can find schools that incorporate bodyworks techniques into their curriculum. Some massage schools may teach bodyworks separately – it can even be considered advanced or additional training for therapists.

Some examples of techniques considered bodyworks are:

  • Shiatsu
  • Myofascial/Deep Tissue
  • Sports Massage

Other examples of the bodyworks method can include craniofacial therapies and Pilates. Bodyworks may be used as an adjunct to medical treatment, or it may be prescribed as a form of physical therapy for certain conditions.

Myofascial Release Massage

Quite often you will feel an ache which feels like it goes right to the bone. This can happen because of an intramuscular injury or simply because you play a lot of sports. No matter how you sustained the injury or have to suffer from the pain, you do not have to live with the pain. This is when you will use myofascial techniques to get the relief you are looking for. These are deep tissue therapies which involve the stretching and reorganization of the fascia in order to provide you the relief you long for. This is accomplished by using tools, elbows or knuckles to get at the muscles which are below the surface muscles. This kind of bodywork is not accomplished quickly as the practitioner will have to work through layers of tissue in order to achieve the desired results.

It is important to note when you use myofascial bodywork techniques that you will not instantly feel better. This is because you will have exchanged the deep muscle pain for something much closer to the surface. It is important to work with a practitioner who knows what they are doing in order to prevent the possibility of sustaining an injury from the myofascial release massage you will receive. You should always make sure that you communicate with the practitioner what you are feeling. This will prevent them from doing anything which will cause you more problems down the line. Following up myofascial techniques with a less invasive massage is not necessary as the pain will subside in two days or less.

Somatic Therapy

Somatic massage therapy is a way for a massage therapist to provide care and support for a client during or after a particularly traumatic event. Somatic massage focuses on whole body health and treatment of how stress and fear physically manifest on and in the body.

Somatic massage therapy combines the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of our being for a holistic experience. Somatic massage also focuses on postural correction.

Some massage schools incorporate somatic massage techniques into the curriculum. More often, though, this type of massage is considered advanced and might require additional training. Students can either learn from a therapist or sign up for extra courses after they are licensed. Students can learn specific somatic modalities like Trager, Postural Integration and Soma Neuromuscular.

The difference between Somatic and Western/Eastern massage is the mind-body connection. Somatic therapy focuses on meditation, centering, and puts an emphasis on emotional components. Some somatic massage techniques use only very light touches or rocking motions. While some somatic therapies don’t use touching at all but has the therapist coaching the client on movement.

Wellness Massage

Wellness therapies and adjunct therapies are treatments that can be performed for clients as supplements to their current massage therapy, such as aromatherapy, hot stones, and mud packs.

Additional wellness massage can provide a positive complement to a number of different massage types and modalities. By using natural healing methods and additional techniques or products, a massage therapist is able to further aid clients in stress reduction, pain relief and relaxation. These wellness therapies can include such additions as aromatherapy, applied kinesiology, reiki, hydrotherapy, hot stone massage or spa techniques such as adding salt-glows or paraffin treatments. Aromatherapy is one of the most popular and common adjunct therapies, dating back thousands of years. By using specific essential oils for skin treatment and bodywork, a therapist is able to help clients by aiding in relaxation, improving circulation, promoting healing skin and much more. Applied Kinesiology is much more recent, having been developed in 1964 by George Goodheart, DC. Muscles are tested to evaluate and restore balance to the body and the treatment involves manipulation and acupressure. This is usually done in conjunction with a licensed professional. Hydrotherapy is literally ‘water healing’ and involves incorporating water into treatment, such as in the use of saunas, therapeutic baths or even the use of wraps or packs. Hot stone massage is becoming an increasingly popular form of massage – smooth stones are heated to a comfortable temperature and the heat helps both relax muscles and allows the massage therapist to work the muscles more deeply. The number of wellness therapies and holistic health methods are almost as numerous as the numbers of spas and salons – as each massage therapist incorporates techniques from their favorite modalities and each client has different wants and needs. Discover more about becoming a massage therapist or locating one in your area today.

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